AU officials are in negotiations with three or four new vendors to share the vacant store space on New Mexico Avenue, as part of the search for a new tenant.
The space is in an AU-owned, commercially zoned property where the upscale grocery store Balducci’s was previously located. It also includes AU administration offices and the Chef Geoff’s restaurant.
Jorge Abud, AU’s assistant vice president for facilities, development and real estate, said they are still keeping an open search for new tenants to fill the vacant store.
The search for new vendors began in October 2008 when Balducci’s declared it would leave at the end of the store’s lease on June 30, 2009.
Abud said the popular grocery store’s new management played a role in Balducci’s decision to leave.
“It was related to the fact that the company was sold to a new owner, and the new owner decided to close four of their stores in the Washington area,” Abud said.
For over a year, the hunt for a new tenant to fill the space has preoccupied AU.
“Our initial desire, having seen a fairly successful operation of Balducci’s over the years, was to look for a similar tenant that was a small market with some prepared food components,” Abud said. “Unfortunately [we] were not successful in finding a tenant like that and have since looked at smaller individual tenants that would provide some prepared food options for the area.”
Abud said AU offered deals to vendors like Panera and Corner Bakery, but many declined due to the low customer traffic. However, AU hopes to solidify the new vendors soon.
“Even if the vendors we are currently talking to agree to the lease, it’s going to take a minimum of six to nine months just to get it started,” Abud said.